You can’t make a film about nineties Wall Street without drugs. And money. And cars. And more drugs. But most important of all, you can’t make a movie about Wall Street without suits. Really, really, good suits.
As it was then and continues to be now, banking is as much a business of perception as it is professionalism. And in the case of The Wolf of Wall Street, Martin Scorsese’s riotous new film based on the life of former banker cum conman, Jordan Belfort, these suits had to be the best.
But where to go? Ralph Lauren? Versace? Brioni? All big power dressing brands, sure, but let’s get one thing straight: in the early nineties, if you wanted people to know that you meant business, you went to one man and one man alone: Giorgio Armani.
Giorgio Armani explains his design from The Wolf Of Wall Street (hover over picture for details)
As Martin Scorsese puts it, “Armani revolutionised male fashion design – he gave us a new idea of elegance that was, and still is, a perfect fit with the times.”
At those times in particular a good suit, like a Ferrari, a brick sized mobile phone or a property in the Hamptons, was a signifier of success that people substituted at their peril. As with every significant cultural movement of the past hundred years, there was a strict code of dress, and the bankers of Wall Street were no exception. “The Wolf of Wall Street is set in the early 1990s, when showy clothing was a symbol of power. At the time, it was obligatory to look like a winner.” Said Giorgio Armani.
And he’s not wrong. Coming off the back of the eighties with its boxy jackets and roomy shoulders Armani altered his block so that it felt relaxed but expertly cut. Big lapels, double breasted jackets, wider trousers; this new, deconstructed aesthetic wrestled the tailoring high ground from the hands of Savile Row, seen at the time as too stuffy, too traditional, and installed the impossibly cool Italian in their place.
Here were suits that spoke to the Ivy League educated, college-football playing men of New York’s financial district. Suits that fit their broad shoulders and high ambitions, suits that looked fantastic but felt comfortable. Suits that marked them out as a particular kind of person: A Master of the Universe. Which is exactly how Di Caprio’s Belfort looks.
Elsewhere in the movie, the contrast between Belfort’s New Jersey friends- drug dealers, car salesmen, even his dowdy wife- and his impossibly glamorous new life is obvious, but one character in particular deserves special mention. Jonah Hill’s preposterously toothy Donny Azoff dresses like The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’s Carlton Banks on cocaine. Which, come to think of it, isn’t that far from the truth.
Belfort’s wardrobe then, like his life, like everything in The Wolf of Wall Street is turned up to eleven, and yet somehow, inexplicably, he emerges looking, if not squeaky clean, at the very least impeccably turned out. How’s that for power dressing?
This article first appeared in Esquire Weekly, our new iPad-only edition. Containing 100 per cent new and original content, it’s published every Thursday on the Apple Newsstand.